Hanabusa-Djou Vote Will Be Telling

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - October 27, 2010
| Del.icio.us

In an election year too long and marked by too much noise, Hawaii’s voters will quiet the din when their ballots are counted next Tuesday. Neil or Duke, Charles or Colleen, an appointed school board or an elected one, Senator X or his challenger, Representative Y or hers: All will be decided by evening’s end.

None of those decisions will be more telling about Hawaii’s emerging politics than whom the 1st District’s voters choose to represent them in the next Congress: Republican Rep. Charles Djou or Senate President Colleen Hanabusa.

Both Djou and Hanabusa are lawyers, but that’s where the similarity ends. Their political careers and philosophies are diametrically opposed.

Djou won one two-year term as a Republican state representative from Kaneohe in 2000, then two four-year terms as a non-partisan city councilman from East Honolulu. In both the Legislature and on the Council, Djou has been in the minority - on the Council often a minority of one. His criticisms of the majority have usually been of excessive spending and tax or fee increases. With his victory in this spring’s special election, Djou joined the Republican minority in the United States House of Representatives where he has served for the past six months.

Democrat Hanabusa won election to the state Senate in 1998. Immediately after her swearing-in, Hanabusa led a small band of freshmen in an assault on the Senate leadership. Most of her colleagues went down in defeat four years later. Hanabusa survived and conquered, serving as chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as Senate majority leader and - since 2007 - as the first woman to serve as Senate president.

Djou, following the National Republican Party dictum that 2010 is a wave election in which all that is spelled Obama will go down in defeat, dismisses the $800 billion stimulus package as “a colossal failure” and proposes that any of its unspent dollars should be used to pay down the deficit.

“We are spending too much money,” he says, and he condemns legislative “earmarks” as symptomatic of “a broken, pork barrel system.” Djou wants a constitutional amendment that would require a balanced federal budget and opposes any and all tax increases. He also wants all of the tax breaks due to expire at the end of this year to continue.

Djou approves of America’s two current wars. “We must succeed in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” he says. “The stakes of failure are too high.” Those stakes, says Djou, include our being forced to fight terrorists on American soil. “We either fight them there or here.”

Hanabusa is less certain about the outcome in Afghanistan. “I hope we can stabilize the situation, but I don’t know whether we will succeed in doing so,” she says. “President Obama has called for an exit strategy that requires us to examine where we are in mid-2011. I will not support our remaining in Afghanistan forever and ever. We can’t afford it.”

Hanabusa also differs with Djou on earmarks: “Condemning earmarks in general is easy, but not when you remember that the East-West Center was an earmark. So was bringing the USS Missouri to Pearl Harbor. So was the Pacific Tsunami Center. And all of them have benefited Hawaii.”

If re-elected, Djou has been promised a plum committee assignment by Republican House minority leader John Boehner (who, in all probability, will be the majority leader in the next Congress). Hanabusa has enjoyed the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye in both the special and general elections.

So in Djou vs. Hanabusa it is the consummate critic versus the accomplished legislator. The winner will depend on where Hawaii’s electorate has gone since the heady days of having a keiki o ka aina running for president in 2008.

Obama carried Hawaii - and both congressional districts - with 74 percent of the vote in 2008. In a recent poll, 61 percent of Hawaii’s voters approved of the Obama presidency, Boehner’s and Djou’s criticisms notwithstanding. The outcome of next week’s 1st District race will tell us much about whether Hawaii still loves Barack.

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